If you or a loved one sustained an injury or significant property damage in a local boating accident, contact Fiol Law Group and our talented Tampa boat accident lawyers right away. You may be able to recover for your damages with the help of our top-rated personal injury lawyers.
Tampa Bay is a popular destination for boaters around the state. Crystal-clear waters, sunshine, and plenty of loading docks make the Bay a perfect place for an afternoon or weekend on the Gulf. In any given Florida sunny day, you’ll encounter boats, jet skis, and pleasure craft in the waters around our city. Though these are called “pleasure craft” for a reason, accidents happen.
Unfortunately, Tampa Bay sees an alarmingly high rate of boating accidents every year, many of which result in fatalities. Crowded waters, inexperienced boaters, and negligent boat operators all contribute to the hundreds of annual boating accidents in Tampa Bay.
Preventable Boating Accidents in Florida
Almost all boating accidents are preventable. The majority of boating accidents stem from human error and negligence, such as drinking and boating or failing to maintain a proper lookout. Many people mistakenly believe that the law imposes less strict regulations on distracted and intoxicated boating operations than motor vehicles. This leads to poor decision making, such as trying to operate a vessel while intoxicated or overloading a boat. In Florida, this is not the case. Operating a vessel in Tampa Bay with a blood alcohol content level of 0.08% or more is grounds for a BUI, or boating under the influence charge.
Causes of Tampa Boat Accidents
In addition to intoxication, common causes of preventable boating accidents are:
- Improper loading
- Failure to pay attention to surroundings
- Inexperienced operators
- Excessive speed
- Equipment failure
- Breaking waterway rules
Careless and negligent boaters may fail to properly maintain their vessels, letting them fall into disrepair yet still taking them on the water. This can lead to dangerous equipment breakdowns and boating accidents. Breaking the rules and speeding, passing improperly, or otherwise operating a boat recklessly are also preventable causes of accidents in which the boat operator is at fault.
Special Considerations For Tampa Boat Accidents
Like virtually all personal injury cases, a boating accident involves the basic concepts of liability and negligence. Negligence is a legal term that refers to a careless or reckless action (or inaction) that leads to an accident or injury.
In Tampa, there are three common types of watercraft accidents:
- One craft hits another – for example, a boat may hit a jet ski or a speedboat may hit a sailboat.
- One craft’s wake leads to an accident – examples include a speedboat’s wake capsizing a jet ski or a jet ski’s wake hitting a paddle boarder.
- Accidents involving a collision with another object – like a sandbar or other submerged landmark.
Liability in Boating Accidents Involving Two Watercrafts
In an accident involving two watercrafts, both boaters may share fault for an accident. Crashes between two watercrafts follows the same basic procedure as Tampa car accidents. Since Florida is a comparative negligence state, a boater who is less than 50% at fault for an accident may collect damages from the other boater. However, their award will be reduced by their degree of fault. If, for example, a boater seeks $100,000 in damages from another but is 20% at fault for an accident, they can only collect $80,000.
If you’re a passenger on a boat and incur injury in this type of accident, you may be able to collect damages from either boat operator.
Accidents Involving a Wake
Less clear cut are accidents involving another craft’s wake. A large wake can knock passengers out of a boat, causing serious injury. Florida and federal boating laws require that a boat’s operator exercise reasonable caution and look out for hazards.
Liability in a boating accident involving a wake will depend on:
- The speed of the boat.
- Current weather conditions (visibility).
- Other marine traffic.
- The size of a wake.
- Whether an operator had adequate warning to avoid a wake.
The boat operator who created the wake may also be liable for injuries, particularly if the accident occurred in a “no-wake” zone. Many people mistakenly assume if a wake cause an accident than there is no one directly responsible for injures; it’s imperative you meet with a Tampa boat accident attorney who can review the accident’s unique details and let you know if you have a personal injury case under Florida’s boating laws.
Crashes Involving Submerged Objects
Finally, a boat operator may run into sandbars or other submerged objects which may cause injury. A passenger may have a personal injury claim if the boat’s operator failed to use basic precautions. Examples include speeding, failure to use nautical charts, or traveling too fast for current conditions.
Tips for Water Safety in Florida
To minimize your risk of a boating accident, observe the following precautions:
- Always wear a life jacket, even if you’re a good swimmer.
- Never drink and drive a pleasure craft.
- Always use navigational charts.
- Observe all no-wake zones and follow posted warnings.
- Check for local water conditions before leaving the marina.
- Use common sense and travel at safe speeds for prevailing conditions.
- Dress appropriately for the weather and wear plenty of UV protection, as the sun can dehydrate you quickly.
Know Your Rights
Speaking with a Tampa boat accident lawyer can help you gain a better understanding of the value of your boating accident case. A lawyer will examine your personal injuries, gather your medical records, investigate the crash, and give you your options moving forward. Your injury attorney may recommend settling your case with the at-fault boater’s insurance company, or taking your case to the civil courts in Tampa Bay. Your best option will depend on the extent of your damages and the circumstances of the accident.
Boating accidents can lead to vessels capsizing, passengers falling overboard, catastrophic injuries, and drowning. If you’ve lost a loved one due to drowning, our Tampa wrongful death attorneys have years of experience handling these devastating cases. Boat accidents can cause thousands of dollars’ worth of medical bills and property damage, or even the death of a loved one. If another boater’s failure to pay attention, intoxication, recklessness behind the helm, or failure to maintain the vessel caused your boating accident in the Bay, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney. You deserve to act within your rights under the law and pursue compensation.
Contact a Tampa Boat Accident Attorney
The longer you wait to make a claim, the smaller your chances are of receiving the compensation you need to recover. Fiol Law Group can help you handle insurance claims, go through pretrial investigations, obtain your medical records, and speak to witnesses at the scene of the accident. In Florida you have four years from the date of your accident to file a personal injury claim. The sooner you speak to an attorney, the better your odds will be of obtaining compensation. To learn more about your rights as an injured party, please contact Fiol Law Group for a consultation.